Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you. (Proverbs 20:22)
One morning I parked my truck in an empty lot and sat down on a rock to wait for my friend. When he arrived we took his car to another part of town for a bite to eat. Not even twenty minutes later another friend called saying my truck was about to be towed by the people who owned the restaurant beside where I had parked.
I was immediately ready to repay evil but decided that first I would go in and talk with them to find out what was going on. There were no signs about exclusive parking, the restaurant had been closed, and even now the lot was still completely empty. What were they thinking?
However, a couple of questions only uncovered an angry response and a menacing demand to leave. I had started the conversation with a conciliatory attitude, but now I was mad. This was the time to write nasty online reviews about unkind restaurant owners, warnings of being towed if they didn’t like you…Perhaps I should even scatter nails in the gravel parking lot to show them what awful people they were! Revenge has a way of inspiring cruel creativity and my imagination ran wild.
I would never eat at their restaurant – ever (which would really be a tragedy as they seem to have great food), and everyone should know that this corner of town was haunted by the evil intentions of people who towed innocent vehicles as soon as their owners looked the other way. Thoughts of forgiveness hid themselves behind a clouded obsession with how to rectify the injustice and unkindness that had been shown to me.
To Forgive Injustice
I couldn’t let this go and it was about to ruin my whole day. As my ability to think clearly began to fade and doing anything productive seemed more and more impossible, I realized I would have to let go of my desire to repay evil. I am not an angry person (except when I see or experience injustice), and my attitude was becoming more destructive to my life than whatever the poor restaurant owners had determined to do.
I needed deliverance from myself as much as from their threats against my truck. Thankfully, I had already been rescued from this latter danger, but now the former had taken hold. If it was up to me to repay their rudeness, I must either do something regrettable or live under the shadow of my own distemper.
Only the justice of the LORD could be an adequate substitute for my own retaliation, but even Jesus chose to forgive his enemies rather than condemn them to the wrath of God. He asked his father to forgive those who should have rightly been condemned – because they did not know what they were doing. My petty quarrel with the parking lot people was nothing compared to what he went through, but it was hard for me to forgive them myself, much less to let the receive the forgiveness instead of the judgment of God. How could I bless those who I felt had attempted to curse me?
Choosing to wait for the LORD is not easy – especially when it is most critical to do so. Even days later, some part of me would still rather enjoy the pleasure of revenge than the sweetness of forgiveness. Still, I know that I must either let my own dissatisfaction fester or wait for the LORD to make something beautiful out of this situation. It is not a good thing to ignore problems, but it is also not a good thing to resolve them in ways that create more. How much better would it be to hope for a transformation in the lives of people I presently dislike than to wish chaos and hardship upon them? The first choice is better, but also more difficult.
A Better Way
Repaying evil with good does not come naturally to me. This is why even today I recognize that to walk in the way of wisdom must require more than a massive amount of self-control and good intention. I need my heart to be transformed so that the goodness of God can be expressed through my life. The little charade of my experience is nothing more than an expression of the cosmic struggle between good and evil, which has already been won. I may choose to walk through the world as a victor who extends love and grace to those who still cannot taste freedom – or as a victim who does not yet know what it means to live as the son of God.
When I choose to see the truth of who God is rather than taking matters into my own hands I am not only delivered from my own natural tendencies, I am also delivered from the injustice that is beyond my power to control. I will encounter more struggles like this one throughout my life (and many that are much more significant). The key to overcoming their injustice is to continue on the path of truth rather than falling prey to the deception that I must look out for my own interest.
I do not need to repay those who I think have done me wrong because God will address the injustice bringing life and restoration in ways that I could never imagine.